Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is It Hard To Serve God?

One thing we can't deny is that serving God is necessary.  A false teaching, and fanciful idea, entered the Christian church some centuries ago when Luther began teaching "sola fide" (by faith alone), meaning a person is saved by faith alone.  The problem is two things: 1) The only place the phrase "faith alone" appears in the Bible is in James 2:24 ("not by faith alone"), and 2) People misunderstand Paul's teachings.  When Paul wrote in his letters "by grace you have been saved, through faith... not by works" he was referring to regeneration.  This should be so obvious when we think of it.  He is writing to people alive on this earth and he says "you have been saved".  Clearly he's not talking about them being in heaven (what people often assume when talking about salvation); he's talking about regeneration, being born of the Spirit and entering God's kingdom on earth.  Apply his words to entering heaven and you have a contradiction with verses like Romans 2:6-8 or Revelation 22:12.  So one thing is certain: We must serve God if we want to enter heaven and avoid hell.

This shouldn't be too hard.  There really shouldn't be any resistance to the idea of serving God.  Jesus says its easy.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  -Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30

That may sound odd, if you know much of the rest of the gospels.  When we first read Jesus' teachings/commands we feel overwhelmed.  Its radical stuff, and maybe not so easy, but if we seriously think about it, take a closer look and give it a try, I think we'll find that serving God actually is easy.

Abandoning the old
The thing that gets in the way, that makes it hard for us to serve God, is all of our worldly desires, responsibilities, worries, relationships and the like.  We're set up with a decision: Do I live for myself, or do I live for God?  Our nature pushes us to want to live for ourselves - to make our own lives as pleasing to our own selves as possible.  That could be money or relationships or status or a bunch of drunk partying.  All of these things have to be abandoned to serve God.  And there's good reason to.  I've told people before that you can be selfish and still be a Christian.  What I mean is this: Giving up the small temporary rewards of living a worldly life for the eternal rewards of serving God is doing yourself a favor.  If you really want to do the best thing for yourself, then you will serve God, because God can reward you extremely much better than the world can.  So while it may go against our natural instinct, it actually is a smart (and maybe selfish) decision to serve God.  Its a decision a man can make, and even though he's abandoning all worldly pursuits, he'll feel as though he's really losing nothing.  That's where a person needs to start.  Its impossible to serve God without first abandoning the pursuit of anything worldly.  Once a person abandons the old, he'll find that serving God is actually quite easy.

Relying on His power
The single biggest reason that serving God is easy is that God gives us the power to do it.  He will answer all who call on Him (Matthew 7:7).  He gives us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us (John 14:16-17).  Think of it like this: If you were assigned the task of digging a six foot deep hole, four foot wide and eight foot long, and you were given a shovel, it would be hard wouldn't it?  Now think of digging the same hole with an excavator.  A few scoops and you're done - very easy.  If you're well equipped to handle the task, the task will be easy.  The Holy Spirit gives us what we need.  Now let me give just one example of something God has given us, which makes serving Him much easier: The internet.  So much of what we're commanded to do, like make disciples, edify one another and the like, is simply a matter of communication.  The internet, specifically social networking sites, makes it so easy to communicate the gospel to nonbelievers and edification to believers.  If you don't know what to do, do this simple thing: Post Bible verses as your Facebook or Twitter updates.  Now isn't that incredibly easy?  What could stop you from doing it?  Oh yeah, worries of the world, like what people might think of you.

There's one last thing I want to point out, and that's the fact that serving God will not be the same for all people.  Men and women are commanded to serve in different ways.  Those who are given special gifts/talents are to use them.  Some are called to lead and others to follow.  Every person is unique, and the way each person serves God is not going to be exactly the same as the next.  But the one thing that will always be the same is radical devotion.  Serving God begins with a desire and commitment to make Him the number one of your life.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What The Bible's Paradoxes Teach Us

The Bible contains many paradoxes.  If a person didn't know that, he would probably have a hard time understanding the Bible.  So we should ask ourselves why there are paradoxes in the Bible.  Why wouldn't God make it simple and plain?

I'll start by stating what I believe the paradoxes of the Bible teach us: They teach us not to put God in a box.  When we start to think that God is always this way or that way, there's a verse that proves us wrong.  But if we take an opposite view, there's still verses that proves us wrong.  Let me give some examples to show what I mean.

For God does not show favoritism.  Romans 2:11

This is supported by Acts 10:34 and John 3:16.  This is what causes people to say "God loves everyone".  But if people are ignorant of Scripture they might think that's true.  Paul also writes in Romans:

Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."  Romans 9:13

Paul quoted Malachi 1:2-3.  So we have Paul writing that God does not show favoritism, but then he quotes an example where God clearly showed favoritism.  What is going on?  Its a paradox.  We should acknowledge that God does not show favoritism, but we should not think that He can't show favoritism.  God can do anything He pleases.  We should look at this with humility.  Never should we say, and judge for ourselves, that God does not love a certain person.  At the same time, never should we take God's love for granted for ourselves.  The Scripture says "Esau I have hated", so do not assume that God will love you.  Do not assume that God would never hate you.  Always look at it with a low view of yourself and a high view of God.

Here's another one to consider: Was Jesus omnipotent when He was here on earth?  We all know that God is omnipotent; He created the heavens and the earth, so that's a no-brainer.  But Jesus said the Father is greater than He (John 14:28).  So how could Jesus be omnipotent?  But Jesus also said the Father and He are one (John 10:30).  If the Father is omnipotent, and the Son and the Father are one, then Jesus would be omnipotent too.  But it may be for a time, while Jesus was on earth, that He was not omnipotent.  We know Jesus is eternal (John 1:1), and we can assume that He is eternally omnipotent (Matthew 28:18).  But we know of at least one thing Jesus couldn't do on earth, perform miracles in His hometown (Mark 6:5), and we know that Jesus didn't know the time of His second coming when He said "nor the Son" (Matthew 24:36).

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."  Matthew 19:26

All things are possible with God, but can God make a boulder so big He can't lift it?  Could God make an omelet so hot He can't eat it?  The answer to both is yes.  The paradox allows for it.  The fact that God the Father has no limits, and that God the Son did have limits while He was here on earth, and the Son and the Father are one, shows us that God can make a boulder so big He can't lift it, and God can make an omelet so hot He can't eat it.  Because God the Father did indeed make many boulders so big that Jesus could not have lifted them (if He wanted to).  And if God had made an omelet hotter than the sun, Jesus would not have been able to eat it.  In other words, God is so unlimited, God can even put limits on Himself.  Since all things are possible for God, making something impossible is even possible.

I know this sounds weird, and it may be hard to comprehend.  But the basic point of all these paradoxes is this: Do not put God in a box.  Do not think you have God all figured out; you don't.  The minute you think you can neatly describe God, He will show you that you're wrong.  He shows us all that He is far too magnificent to understand or put into words.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Kind of Dirt Are You?

In Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20 and Luke 8:4-15 Jesus tells us the parable of the sower.

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  He who has ears, let him hear."  Matthew 13:3-9

We are told clearly what the seed is in Luke 8:11 - the word of God.  There are four different types of ground the seed falls on:1) The path - This is people who do not understand the word (Matthew 13:19), and Satan comes and snatches it away.  We are led to think, since the path is hardened dirt, that these people's hearts are hard.  And the devil coming and taking away the word of God must involve lies of the devil.  So it would be people who do not understand the word, and are led away from it by Satan's lies.
2) The rocky ground - These are people who receive the word at once with joy (Matthew 13:20).  But Jesus says nothing about them understanding the word.  We do know that they have no depth, no roots.  So as soon as a time of testing comes along, they fall away (Luke 8:13).  This should teach us that its more important to understand God's word than to receive it with joy.  And this teaches us to dig in for a long war and be ready for persecution.
3) The weedy ground - These are people who hear the word, but other things compete with God's word.  They are choked by life's worries, riches, pleasures and desires for other things.  And they do not mature (Luke 8:14).  These people do not mature in the word of God, because they allow other things like family and career and their image to distract them.
4) The good ground - These are those with a noble and good heart (Luke 8:15), they accept the word (Mark 4:20), and they understand it (Matthew 13:23).  They produce a crop by persevering (Luke 8:15).

One thing you might notice with this parable, since it is recorded in all three synoptic gospels, is that some words are mentioned in one gospel that aren't in another.  Putting these three gospels together gives us a better understanding of the parable.  For example: Matthew tells us that the good soil understands the word, and Luke tells us the good soil perseveres.  Both are characteristics of the good soil, but to get both of them you have to read both Matthew and Luke.

Another thing we should take note of is the subtle differences between the different grounds.  The rocky ground receives the word quickly and with joy.  We might assume that is a good thing, but knowing its the rocky ground, we know its not a good thing.  And the parable says nothing about the good ground receiving the word quickly or with joy.  And Jesus says in Matthew 21:44 that anyone who falls on the capstone (Jesus) will be broken to pieces.  So we should not think that new believers should be full of joy; it could be the exact opposite.  The joy comes with growth.  And the parable says nothing about the good ground receiving the word quickly.  It very well may take some people quite some time to accept the word, but during the process they are growing roots.  Its better to come slowly to Christ and persevere than to come quickly to Christ but fall away later.

So what kind of dirt are you?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What About The Old Testament Law?

This is an area of much debate in the church: Does the Old Testament law matter for Christians, and do we have to follow it?  Some contend that the New Testament (New Covenant) made the old obsolete.  Others believe the Old Testament is still in effect along with the new, and that Christians must follow the written code of the Old Testament.  Still others take a position somewhere in between.

One reason some believe the Old Testament law must be followed is what Jesus said:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, nor the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  -Jesus in Matthew 5:17-19

What makes this difficult to understand is what Paul wrote: 

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  Colossians 2:13-14

This has led some to believe that Paul came along later and modified the religion; that Paul preaches something different than Christ.  But that makes even less sense for two reasons: 1) Christ commissioned Paul, and God knows everything, knowing exactly what Paul would teach in advance, and 2) some things Jesus said support Paul's teaching.  Here is a good example: 

Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him.  Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'  -Jesus in Mark 7:15

And in verse 19 of the same chapter Mark writes that Jesus declared all foods "clean".  This would mean that Jesus abolished the dietary laws.  And in Matthew 12:3-8 Jesus downplayed the importance of the Sabbath, and He clearly taught that in some circumstances a person can break the law and still be innocent.  So what should we take from all this?

Its about the principles.  Each and every law in the OT was made to teach a principle.  The clean and unclean laws were made to teach the Israelites purity and holiness, and being set apart.  This is also why Jews were commanded not to associate with Gentiles.  Consider the principle here: 

A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.  Deuteronomy 22:5

With this command God teaches us that we must not blur the line between male and female.  God made man and woman, and He made us different, so blurring the line between man and woman is perverting the natural order made by God.  But does it mean that a man sins by dressing like a woman in a comedy play?  If you hold strictly to the law, then you would have to say yes.  That is why Jesus set us free from the law; free from legalism.  But we must obey the principle laid out: Men must not try to look like women, and women must not try to look like men.

So you see there is a paradox at work in the Bible.  Jesus clearly said that the Law and the Prophets will not pass away, but Jesus also freed us from the written code.  We no longer have to keep a list of rules, but we must follow the principles expressed in those rules.  We must keep ourselves clean, as the dietary laws teach, but we are free from the laws themselves.  And another thing to understand: Some matters of the law are greater than others.  Jesus made this clear a number of times. 

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cummin.  But you have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness.  You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.  -Jesus in Matthew 23:23

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What Would Jesus Do?

I know, its become a cliche.  But seriously, its something to consider as we face decisions in life.  I'll try to portray some possible circumstances to get your mind running, and see if we can answer that question.

Its the middle of the school year, and you've just found out that this guy, who bullied you for the last six years, broke his leg in practice.  Since he can't come to school for a week, his math teacher asks if you would take all his tests and assignments home to him.  But since his neighborhood is less than safe, your mother has forbidden you to go there.  So what would Jesus do?  Would He tell your teacher about your mother's rule, or would He take the assignments to him anyways?

I guess there's two issues here: 1) Whether your bully even deserves for you to do him a favor, and 2) If its okay to go against a parent's wishes if it means doing good for someone else.  The first one can simply be answered with this:

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  -Jesus in Matthew 5:44-45

Jesus would certainly do good for someone who never did good for Him.  But would He do it against His parent's wishes?  In Matthew 15:4-6 Jesus reiterates the Old Testament law to honor your father and mother.  In a case like this, I believe Jesus would let his teacher know of His mother's rule.  If it were something more serious, then it could be justified.  Jesus gave us good indication that pleasing our parents is not the highest priority.  In Matthew 12:47-48 it seems that Jesus ignores His mother, and in Luke 12:52 Jesus gives us the indication that we must be willing to leave our family for the kingdom of God.

Now you've graduated from High School.  Your parents want you to go to college.  A profitable company has offered you a job with starting pay at $15 an hour.  But in your heart you feel inclined to start a ministry.  So what would Jesus do?

Its a matter of pleasing your parents, getting an education and possibly having fun at college, or making lots of money with the potential for more, or working to further the kingdom of God on earth.  The Sunday School answer is obvious, but putting it into practice is difficult

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  -Jesus in Matthew 6:33

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  -Jesus in Mark 8:36

And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.  -Jesus in Luke 14:27

You're trying to serve the Lord, but you've noticed that many other ministers in various churches are living a double life.  You've come to realize that the religious leaders, some of whom you work with, are doing a very poor job of leading, are hypocritical, or are not preaching a biblical message.  So what would Jesus do?  Would He gently tell them to change their ways, or would He overturn tables in righteous indignation, or would He ignore them altogether?

You can tell in the gospels that the way Jesus responds to people depends mostly on who He is responding to and what the circumstances are.  Its very clear that Jesus showed some righteous indignation, and He was not always kind to certain people.  Read Matthew 23 and consider the temple-cleansing episode.  But sometimes He responded with gentleness and kindness, like with the adulteress woman in John 8.  It would be hard to miss the fact that Jesus' righteous indignation was always directed at the religious leaders of His day.  They were corrupt, and He let them know it (John 8:44).  So if there are corrupt leaders in the church, and these are leading others astray, I would have to say that Jesus would display some righteous indignation.  This might even mean stepping on the toes of a friend.  But if any of these ministers are of God, they will take a rebuke graciously.  If they respond with anger and rejection, then it shows that they are as corrupt as the Jews who would not believe Jesus, and you wouldn't want them as friends.  Whether you get to that point or not will depend largely on how they respond to a polite gentle rebuke.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Messianic Prophecies Pt3

A continuation of messianic prophecies.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:14

Jesus was born of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:24-25).  Immanuel literally means 'God with us', and when Jesus walked the earth, God was with us.  Since then, God has always been with the church in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.'  Daniel 9:25

The "Anointed One" is the Christ.  Christ literally means 'the anointed one'.  This verse actually tells us when the Christ would come - 69 'sevens' from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem.  The 'sevens' refer to seven year periods, giving us a total of 483 years from the decree to rebuild till Christ's coming.  The Jewish year was 360 days.  This is proven by the one 'seven' in verse 27, and the fact that the middle of that seven, or 42 months - three and a half years, is 1260 days (Revelation 11:3).  When you convert 483 Jewish years (360 days) to solar years, you get 476.37 years.  The decree to rebuild Jerusalem was issued 444-445 BC by the Persian king Artaxerxes.  Going 476.3 solar years from there, you come to about the year AD 31-32, which could be the beginning of Jesus' ministry, or when He entered Jerusalem, or when He was crucified.  Most likely the prophecy is referring to the triumphal entry (Mark 11:11).

Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself.  Psalm 80:17

Jesus refers to Himself many times as the "Son of Man" (Mt 10:23, 12:40, 16:27, 20:28, Mk 8:38, 13:26, 14:41, Lk 6:5, 9:44, 17:24 and much more).  When God raised Jesus up into heaven (Mark 16:19), the Scripture says that He sits at the right hand of God.  This is confirmed by Acts 2:33 and 1Peter 3:22.

The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."  Psalm 110:1

This is interesting firstly because there is two Lords in this passage, giving us a good reason to believe the Trinity.  It also predicts the ascension and Jesus sitting at the right hand of God.  And it gives us an allusion to the second coming of Christ, when He will "rule them with an iron scepter." (Revelation 19:15)

"Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion.  For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the LORD.  "Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people.  I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you..."  Zechariah 2:10-11

Notice how this is the LORD speaking, and how He says "the LORD Almighty has sent me to you"?  This is another good reason to believe the Trinity.  This prophecy also predicts salvation being extended to the Gentiles, and Gentiles being joined with the Lord, as Christians are members of the body of Christ today.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Messianic Prophecies Pt2

A continuation of messianic prophecies

Psalm 22
This psalm is very unique because of the amount of detail in it - details that precisely describe the crucifixion:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  What Jesus said on the cross (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.  Jesus prayed so hard his sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44)
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him.  Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."  Jesus was mocked and insulted (Luke 22:63-65) and they said "He trusts in God.  Let God rescue him..." (Matthew 27:43)
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.  Crucifixion stretches the body and pulls a man's bones out of joint
My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.  Scientists have concluded that Jesus died from a ruptured heart, which is why there was blood and a watery liquid that flowed from His side when He was pierced by the soldier (John 19:34)
My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.  Jesus said "I am thirsty" on the cross (John 19:28)
Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.  The Jews often referred to Gentiles as dogs (Mark 7:27), and Jesus was surrounded by Romans.  Clearly, they pierced His hands and His feet.
I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.  None of Jesus' bones were broken, unlike the two thieves whose legs were broken (John 19:32-33)
They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.  The soldiers cast lots for Jesus' clothing (Mark 15:24)
For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

If you want to know who the "afflicted one" is, you can turn to Isaiah 52 and 53:
See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.  Just as there were many who were appalled at him - his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness - so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him.  For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.  Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.....  Isaiah 52:13-53:7

You can read more if you like.  And I could expound on the meanings in this prophecy, but isn't it obvious?  Jesus' appearance was marred when He was beaten and hung on the cross.  His blood sprinkles the nations, just like the blood of a sacrifice is sprinkled to consecrate things.  Jesus was despised and rejected; just count how many times the Jews tried to stone Him.  He was pierced for our transgressions (Romans 3:25).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The White Horse And Rider

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals.  Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, "Come!"  I looked, and there before me was a white horse!  Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.  Revelation 6:1-2

This is the first seal, the first thing prophesied in Revelation.  Given that a literal white horse and rider would be meaningless, I think its obvious that this symbolically represents something.  Now look at another seal, the Great Seal of the United States, and see if there is not some correlation.

You can find this on the back of any dollar bill.  The key things I want to point out are the two objects in the talons of the eagle.  In its left talon are thirteen arrows, and in its right talon is an olive branch with thirteen leaves and thirteen olives.  The number thirteen represents the number of original colonies, as you'll notice there are thirteen stars above the eagle's head.  But what matters, relating to Revelation 6:2, is the actual objects.  What's obvious is that arrows correspond to a bow, the first thing mentioned of the rider on the white horse.  What's less obvious is the connection of the crown in Revelation 6:2 and the olive branch in the eagle's right talon.  The Greek word used for "crown" in Revelation 6:2 is stephanos, which is the victor's crown.  The other Greek word for crown is diadema, a royal crown, which is used in Revelation 19:12 for Jesus' many crowns.  The unique thing of stephanos, the victor's crown, is that its an olive wreath, given to the winner in the ancient Olympic race.  You can learn more about it here

So the Great Seal of the United States gives us plenty of clues that the US, and the presidency (the Seal of the President also has the eagle with arrows and an olive branch), is the white horse and rider in Revelation 6:2.  But is that enough to make a solid conclusion?  We need to figure out what these things represent.  Firstly, we must go in order.  The first thing mentioned is the bow, so what could that represent?  Well, the bow is a long-range weapon.  It could represent the US's long range missile or nuclear capability.  That capability began around 1945, at the end of WWII and beginning of the Cold War, so we have to keep that in mind as far as the order goes.  The next thing mentioned is the victor's crown.  So what race did the United States win, and win sometime after WWII?  That is pretty obvious if you think about it: The US won the space race against the Soviet Union.  This becomes even more clear if you know of this hint:

This is the Apollo 11 Mission Insignia, and I'm sure you know, Apollo 11 was the mission that put a man on the moon.  With that, the United States won the space race.  So we have nuclear capability after WWII, and we have the space race won 24 years later; the other thing is "he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest."  The United States has and will continue to conquer foreign lands.  I suggest to you that the United States of America and the Office of President is the white horse and rider in Revelation 6:2, the first seal in Revelation.  The symbolism lines up perfectly with the Great Seal, and it lines up perfectly with history.  If you study history and study the prophecies, you can see the signs and know where we are and where we are heading.

Here's another thing to consider: The color is white.  Think of the color used for basically all government buildings in Washington.  Consider the color of the Capitol, and how about where the president resides, the "White House"

Friday, September 9, 2011

Messianic Prophecies

Here are a few messianic prophecies in the Old Testament.  This is just a few, more will come later.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.  Genesis 3:15

This is the first foreshadowing of Christ in the Bible.  It prophesies Satan striking Christ's heel (the cross) and Christ crushing Satan's head (Revelation 20).  This prophecy also shows that the offspring of a woman (Christ) would ultimately defeat Satan.  That in itself gives an indication of how important humans are to God.

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers.  You must listen to him.  For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die."  The LORD said to me:  "What they say is good.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.  If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.  Deuteronomy 18:15-19

Jesus referred to this prophecy in John 5:46-47.  An important lesson to take from this is the importance of knowing the prophecies and closely watching to see their fulfillment.  If the Pharisees and teachers of the law knew the messianic prophecies and were closely watching for the Messiah, they would have known it was Jesus and would have listened to Him.

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.  "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters."  The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.  Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath saying, "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill."  I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.  You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery."  Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.  Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.  Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.  Blessed are all who take refuge in him.  Psalm 2

For one thing, this psalm gives us a good reason to believe the doctrine of the Trinity.  The Anointed One (Christ) is the King, who is the Son that we must take refuge in.  Who, other than God, has that kind of greatness?  We know that this psalm is not talking about any ordinary king, and we know its not about David, because David, or any king in history, has never ruled the nations with an iron scepter, or possessed the ends of the earth.  David certainly understood that its not about him when he said "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way".  And he said that right after exhorting everyone to "Serve the LORD".  He makes little distinction between the LORD and His Anointed One.  As for the fulfillment of this prophecy, you can read it clearly in the book of Revelation.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Authenticity of John

Here is a list of 59 signs of authenticity in the Gospel according to John, put together by Craig Blomberg.  You can find these in Blomberg's The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel, but here they are copied from I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler.

1) Archaeology confirms the use of stone water jars in New Testament times (John 2:6)
2) Given the early Christian tendency towards asceticism, the wine miracle is an unlikely invention (2:8)
3) Archaeology confirms the proper place of Jacob's Well (4:6)
4) Josephus (Wars of the Jews 2.232) confirms there was significant hostility between Jews and Samaritans during Jesus' time (4:9)
5) "Come down" accurately describes the topography of western Galilee. (There's a significant elevation drop from Cana to Capernaum.) (4:46,49,51)
6) "Went up" accurately describes the ascent to Jerusalem (5:1)
7) Archaeology confirms the proper location and description of the five colonnades at the pool of Bethesda (5:2). (Excavations between 1914 and 1938 uncovered that pool and found it to be just as John described it.  Since that structure did not exist after the Romans destroyed the city in AD70, its unlikely any later non-eyewitness could have described it in such vivid detail.  Moreover, John says that this structure "is in Jerusalem," implying that he's writing before AD70.)
8) Jesus' own testimony being invalid without the Father is an unlikely Christian invention (5:31); a later redactor would be eager to highlight Jesus' divinity and would probably make his witness self-authenticating
9) The crowds wanting to make Jesus king reflects the well-known nationalist fervor of early first-century Israel (6:15)
10) Sudden and severe squalls are common on the Sea of Galilee (6:18)
11) Christ's command to eat his flesh and drink his blood would not be made up (6:53)
12) The rejection of Jesus by many of his disciples is also an unlikely invention (6:66)
13) The two predominant opinions of Jesus, one that Jesus was a "good man" and the other that he "deceives people," would not be the two choices John would have made up (7:12); a later Christian writer would have probably inserted the opinion that Jesus was God
14) The charge of Jesus being demon-possessed is an unlikely invention (7:20)
15) The use of "Samaritan" to slander Jesus befits the hostility between Jews and Samaritans (8:48)
16) Jewish believers wanting to stone Jesus is an unlikely invention (8:31,59)
17) Archaeology confirms the existence and location of the Pool of Siloam (9:7)
18) Expulsion from the synagogue by the Pharisees was a legitimate fear of the Jews; notice that the healed man professes his faith in Jesus only after he is expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees (9:13-39), at which point he has nothing to lose.  This rings of authenticity
19) The healed man calling Jesus a "prophet" rather than anything more lofty suggests the incident is unembellished history (9:17)
20) During a winter feast, Jesus walked in Solomon's Colonnade, which was the only side of the temple area shielded from the cold winter east wind (10:22-23); this area is mentioned several times by Josephus
21) Fifteen stadia (less than two miles) is precisely the distance from Bethany to Jerusalem (11:18)
22) Given the later animosity between Christians and Jews, the positive depiction of Jews comforting Martha and Mary is an unlikely invention (11:19)
23) The burial wrappings of Lazarus were common for first-century Jewish burials (11:44); it is unlikely that a fiction writer would have included this theologically irrelevant detail
24) The precise description of the composition of the Sanhedrin (11:47): it was composed primarily of chief priests (largely Sadducees) and Pharisees during Jesus' ministry
25) Caiaphas was indeed the high priest that year (11:49); we learn from Josephus that Caiaphas held the office from AD 18-37
26) The obscure and tiny village of Ephraim (11:54) near Jerusalem is mentioned by Josephus
27) Ceremonial cleansing was common in preparation for the Passover (11:55)
28) Anointing of a guest's feet with perfume or oil was sometimes performed for special guests in the Jewish culture (12:3); Mary's wiping of Jesus' feet with her hair is an unlikely invention (it easily could have been perceived as a sexual advance)
29) Waving of palm branches was a common Jewish practice for celebrating military victories and welcoming national rulers (12:13)
30) Foot washing in first-century Palestine was necessary because of dust and open footwear; Jesus performing this menial task is an unlikely invention (it was a task not even Jewish slaves were required to do) (13:4); Peter's insistence that he get a complete bath also fits with his impulsive personality (there's certainly no purpose for inventing this request)
31) Peter asks John to ask Jesus a question (13:24); there's no reason to insert this detail if this is fiction; Peter could have asked Jesus himself
32) "The Father is greater than I" is an unlikely invention (14:28), especially if John wanted to make up the deity of Christ (as the critics claim he did)
33) Use of the vine as a metaphor makes good sense in Jerusalem (15:1); vineyards were in the vicinity of the temple, and, according to Josephus, the temple gates had a golden vine carved on them
34) Use of the childbirth metaphor (16:21) is thoroughly Jewish; it has been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (1QH 11:9-10)
35) The standard Jewish posture for prayers was looking "towards heaven" (17:1)
36) Jesus' admission that he has gotten his words from the Father (17:7-8) would not be included if John were inventing the idea that Christ was God
37) No specific reference to fulfilled Scripture is given regarding the predicted betrayal by Judas; a fiction writer or later Christian redactor probably would have identified the Old Testament Scripture to which Jesus was referring (17:12)
38) The name of the high priest's servant (Malchus), who had his ear cut off, is an unlikely invention (18:10)
39) Proper identification of Caiaphas's father-in-law, Annas, who was the high priest from AD 6-15 (18:13) - the appearance before Annas is believable because of the family connection and the fact that former high piests maintained great influence
40) John's claim that the high priest knew him (18:15) seems historical; invention of this claim serves no purpose and would expose John to being discredited by the Jewish authorities
41) Annas's questions regarding Jesus' teachings and disciples make good historical sense; Annas would be concerned about potential civil unrest and the undermining of Jewish religious authority (18:19)
42) Identification of a relative of Malchus (the high priest's servant who had his ear cut off) is a detail that John would not have made up (18:26); it has no theological significance and could only hurt John's credibility if he were trying to pass off fiction as the truth
43) There are good historical reasons to believe Pilate's reluctance to deal with Jesus (18:28ff.): Pilate had to walk a fine line between keeping the Jews happy and keeping Rome happy; any civil unrest could mean his job (the Jews knew of his competing concerns when they taunted him with, "if you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.  Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar," 19:12); the Jewish philosopher Philo records the Jews successfully pressuring Pilate in a similar way to get their demands met (To Gaius 38.301-302)
44) A surface similar to the Stone Pavement has been identified near the Antonia Fortress (19:13) with markings that may indicate soldiers played games there (as in the gambling for his clothes in 19:24)
45) The Jews exclaiming "We have no king but Caesar!" (19:15) would not be invented given the Jewish hatred for the Romans, especially if John had been written after AD70. (This would be like New Yorkers today proclaiming "We have no king but Osama Bin Laden!")
46) The crucifixion of Jesus (19:17-30) is attested to by non-Christian sources such as Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, and the Jewish Talmud
47) Crucifixion victims normally carried their own crossbeams (19:17)
48) Josephus confirms that crucifixion was an execution technique employed by the Romans (Wars of the Jews 1.97; 2.305; 7.203); moreover, a nail-spiked anklebone of a crucified man was found in Jerusalem in 1968
49) The execution site was likely outside ancient Jerusalem, as John says (19:17); this would ensure that the sacred Jewish city would not be profaned by the presence of a dead body (Deut. 21:23)
50) After the spear was thrust into Jesus' side, out came what appeared to be blood and water (19:34).  Today we know that a crucified person might have a watery fluid gather in the sac around the heart called the pericardium.  John would not have known of this medical condition, and could not have recorded this phenomenon unless he was an eyewitness or had access to eyewitness testimony
51) Joseph of Arimathea (19:38), a member of the Sanhedrin who buries Jesus, is an unlikely invention
52) Josephus (Antiquities 17.199) confirms that spices (19:39) were used for royal burials; this detail shows that Nicodemus was not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead, and it also demonstrates that John was not inserting later Christian faith into the text
53) Mary Magdalene (20:1), a formerly demon-possessed woman (Luke 8:2), would not be invented as the empty tomb's first witness; in fact, women in general would not be presented as witnesses in a made-up story
54) Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener (20:15) is not a detail that a later writer would have made up (especially a writer seeking to exalt Jesus)
55) "Rabboni" (20:16), the Aramaic for "teacher," seems an authentic detail because its another unlikely invention for a writer trying to exalt the risen Jesus
56) Jesus stating that he is returning to "my God and your God" (20:17) does not fit with a later writer bent on creating the idea that Jesus was God
57) One hundred fifty-three fish (21:11) is a theologically irrelevant detail, but perfectly consistent with the tendency of fisherman to want to record and then brag about large catches
58) The fear of the disciples to ask Jesus who he was (21:12) is an unlikely concoction; it demonstrates natural human amazement at the risen Jesus and perhaps the fact that there was something different about the resurrection body
59) The cryptic statement from Jesus about the fate of Peter is not clear enough to draw certain theological conclusions (21:18); so why would John make it up?  Its another unlikely invention

Monday, September 5, 2011

Various Teachings From Various Verses

He told them still another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."  Matthew 13:33

The yeast in this parable is the word of God.  The flour and dough are the people of the whole world.  This parable shows us that the word of God will work its way through the whole world, including every person on the earth, before the end comes.  This is consistent with what Jesus says in Matthew 24:14 and what is prophesied in Daniel 2:35.

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."  Luke 17:20-21

The kingdom of God on earth is not a physical entity.  The kingdom of God is the invisible church, the universal church of Christ.  It is the Holy Spirit in everyone who is born again, and all who are born again make up the kingdom of God on earth.  The fact that no one says "Here it is" or "There it is" disproves every claim of a "one true church".  The true church is not a physical entity, but the invisible church.

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.  James 1:18

The kingdom of God in Matthew 13:33 is the word of truth mentioned here.  The kingdom of God in Luke 17:20-21 is also the word of truth mentioned here.  It is the yeast that is worked through the dough.  It is the kingdom of God that is within the believer.  The word of God plays an important role in being born again.  The Holy Spirit does all the work, but the Spirit spreads the seed, which is the word of God, by way of the church, and the seed grows in a believer by the work of the Spirit.  Thus he is born again - born of the Spirit.

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!"  And let him who hears say, "Come!"  Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.  Revelation 22:17

The bride is the church of Christ.  The Spirit and the bride work together, because the Spirit is in the bride.  So they both say "Come!" to the world, inviting everyone to take the free gift of the water of life (the Spirit).  We as Christians have the task of calling to the world and inviting them to come to Christ.  Spreading the word of God is how we do this.  Its how the yeast works through the dough, and its how the kingdom of God is planted in the believer.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  -Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20

Friday, September 2, 2011

Animate Yourself

The question of life, what the meaning of life is, or what living exactly is, begins with knowing where we came from.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness..."  Genesis 1:26

the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.   Genesis 2:7

We all came from one man, Adam, and that one man was made by God in the image of God.  We are all made by God in the image of God.  Knowing the meaning of life begins with knowing that there is more than just what we see.  It begins with knowing that God is real, and God made everything in existence, including ourselves.  When we know that, we know there is a purpose for our existence.

Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth - everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.  Isaiah 43:6-7

We were created by God to bring glory to God.  We were made to worship Him, but to worship Him we must know who He is.

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome  Deuteronomy 10:17

This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool..."  Isaiah 66:1

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere  Psalm 84:10

On life's journey of discovery one inescapable fact waits at every turn: The One who created all that we see is incomprehensibly powerful and great.  This is God, who created us for a purpose, and made us in His image, to be sons and daughters of Him.  But that's not all.  God desires to redeem us to Himself, to be united with Him.  Through His only begotten Son, who purchased us with His blood, God set forth a plan to be united with us.

My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.....  I in them and you in me.  Jesus in John 17:20-23

By putting our faith in Jesus we can be one with God, we in God and God in us.  God gives us the Holy Spirit, we are born again, and the Spirit makes us one with God. 

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit..."  John 3:5

The Holy Spirit gives life.  This is what it means to be living: To have God living in you.  To be one with God, with the Holy Spirit in you, is the only way to have the breath of life.  The breath of life comes directly from God.

and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life  Genesis 2:7

The breath of life is God's breath.  The breath of life is the Holy Spirit, and a person can have this life by coming to Christ, God's Son, with all their soul, mind and heart.  And that person is born again, becoming a son or daughter of God Himself, as well as being one with God. 

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  -Jesus in John 14:20


About Me

Unimpressive in person. But always praying that these letters I write will be weighty and forceful. I serve the Almighty as a servant of Christ. I strive to conquer hearts and minds with the word of God. I am nothing, but the Holy Spirit living inside me is omnipotent. By Him I can run and not grow weary, or walk and not be faint. All glory and honor be to God and to Jesus the Christ.